No Pretend Patients Here: How Step 2 CS Tests Are Vastly Different From Your Other Medical Exams

As a doctor, registered nurse or physician's assistant, you are required to take the Step 2 CS exam to prove that you can work with patients and demonstrate your learned skills. To get the most accurate picture of how well you would do with real patients in a real medical setting, you will not be working with pretend patients, pairing with your colleagues or simply stating what you would do in each scenario. There are several other differences between this exam and the medical exams you have taken before.

Step 2 CS Goes Beyond BPs and Heart Rate

You have already received your skills exams and licensing or certification for the basic clinical skills. Step 2 takes it further by having you demonstrate that you can:

  •  Gather a patient medical history
  •  Enter it into a software program while you are talking to the patient
  •  Run additional tests on the patient
  •  Have a reasonably pleasant bedside manner that distracts the patient when you might have to do something that hurts
  •  Take notes on what you observe as you interact with a patient.

The test examines all the essential skills you will need to be a general medical practitioner with a license.

Test Preparation

Short of the English Fluency component, the only studying you can do relates to the accuracy of your note taking and the symptoms your typical clinic patients might have. You may run test simulations on typing information into computer notepad for speed and accuracy. All the patients you will see on the day of your exam are real patients with real complaints, and you will not know in advance who you will see or what you will be facing. To prepare for the patient interaction portion of the exam, you could run test simulations with your colleagues.  

Showing You Know How to Communicate to Both Patients and Colleagues

The last major component to the exam requires that you can communicate to the patients what you think their problems are and what you can do for them. You have to communicate intelligently, assuming that your patients are of average intelligence, but not talk down to them or talk over them with medical jargon. Communication with your colleagues will test how well you can relate your findings and request a consult to confirm your findings. In all of these ways, the Step 2 CS goes beyond your basic medical training, and you either pass or fail.